Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Casting Stones, Forgiving, and Forgetting



Today's topic is one about which my mama would say, "You've gone to meddling now." My reading this morning was in Deuteronomy 13, and the topic is casting stones.

Moses gave clear instructions about stoning a false prophet who tried to lead the people to serve false gods. Everyone was to take part so that they would understand the penalty for idolatry and leading others astray. Seeing and participating in the execution was to serve as a deterrent to the sin.

Deuteronomy 13:9 gives the instructions about stoning the false prophet, but there's a verse before it that's easily overlooked. Deuteronomy 13:4 comes before verse 9 for a reason. 

"You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him." Deuteronomy 13:4 nasb 

Before we attempt to deal with sin in others and purge sin from our midst, we are to be certain we are following, fearing, obeying, listening, serving, and clinging to God as we ought. 

We are to address our own sin first, before we attempt to address the sin of another.

In Jesus' day, a group of men wanted to stone a woman for her sin of adultery. Jesus looked at the group of people holding stones and at the woman who waited for them. She had committed adultery with a married man. There was no question about her guilt. She deserved the punishment that was about to be given. 

Jesus stopped the execution in its tracks with a few simple words.

"He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 
                                                            John 8:7 nasb

We read about all the countries that still use stoning as a form of execution, and are shocked, but we have our own form of slow death by torture. It's know as gossip. When we malign another's reputation by spreading gossip, even in the guise of a prayer request, we are participating in a form of "stone casting". 

As the body of Christ, it's our job to act like Jesus. Praise God, He doesn't spread our sin around for all to examine, and neither should we. 

Perhaps equally as harmful to those who have sinned is holding to their sin for years. "I can forgive but I can't forget," is our justification, but we aren't fooling God with that attitude. 

(I am not speaking of "forgetting" about the one who continually wounds, but about the one who has repented and turned from the sin.)

Forgiving does not remove consequences, but it should change how we treat the one who has sinned against us.

Jesus doesn't hold on to our sin, or the sin of others, once we've repented and been forgiven, and neither should we. 

Unfortunately, it is commonly said of the church, "They are the only army in the world that shoots their own wounded." This should not be. 

I recently spoke to someone who surprised me with the way they held to someone else's sin. The sin of another person was recounted with as much fervor as if it had happened yesterday. It had occurred more than half a century before. 

Why not forgive that sin and let go of it? If we expect God to forgive us, we must forgive. Even if the sin of another left tremendous destruction in its wake. 

Why? Because God, in his mercy, offered us forgiveness for our own heinous sin. 

When Jesus walked the earth, He was maligned by the religious leaders because he ate and drank with sinners. And He did. People just like you and me. 

He spent time with them because He loved them. He offered them a new way of life and, to everyone's surprise, they responded to His love, accepted the offer of forgiveness and change, and spread His love all around the world.

That's what Jesus did for me. He loved me in my sin and, to everyone's surprise, He loved me right out of it. 

I am not the same woman I was when He saved me. Perhaps we would find more great sinners serving our great God with the love of Mary Magdalene and the fervor of Peter if we treated them the way Christ did.

He loved and forgave. Even to death on the cross and beyond. We should, too.
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